BOOK REVIEWS AND RESOLUTIONS | 2013 in Books

January 16, 2014 § 4 Comments

2013 was the first year I have ever kept a New Year’s Resolution (unfortunately only the one out of the ridiculous amount of them that I made) and that resolution was to read 75 books. Of course the 75th book meant me spending December racing through as many thin books as was possible, but still counts. Because of this resolution success I would like to share with you some of the best books I read in 2013. These books most likely did not come out in 2013, it just so happens that is when I picked them up. In no particular order:

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is a pretty disturbing read about Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged pedophile. Lolita is the girl who sends him over the edge. Humbert Humbert marries the girls mother to get closer… and I’ll leave it there as I don’t wanna give too much away.

This wasn’t a book I’d ever have picked myself, I actually had to read it for a class. What made Lolita such a gripping read was the carefully calculated language that beautifully describes moments in the book. You later realise that all the delicate imagery is the incredibly perverted and disturbing fantasies in Humbert’s mind. Lolita is not for those who are easily upset, nor is it an enjoyable read really, but Nabokov has an attentive writing style that pulls you into the story and makes you want to see more.

2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This book is best known for its film adaptation: Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. In a kind of post-apocalyptic future Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, is aiming to take down, or retire, a group of escaped robots with incredibly advanced brain systems (Nexus-6).

I won’t say “read the book it’s so much better than the film” because a lot of fans of Harrison Ford may disagree, but the film has made the story so much its own that the book is like an entirely different thing. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi – again this one was for a class – but this was the perfect introduction to the genre for me. Do Androids Dream takes on so many themes reflecting political movements and predictions and makes you ask yourself questions about humanity. The writing is fluid and the plot is never slow – the story is completely addictive.

I also watched the movie in 2013 for the first time ever and it is a pretty good adaptation, but there are so many more elements to the book, for example the title of the book which does not relate at all to the movie is a fundamental element of the society which Philip K Dick creates. One thing I did really dislike in the movie was the name change of Isidore, who is called Sebastien in the film… there was just no point in that change. Also, for huge fans of Blade Runner who desperately want to interpret what the unicorn is all about for sure – you might be disappointed because as far as I know that was invented only for the movie.

3. Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone and illustrated by Adam Hughes

This Batgirl is part of “the new 52″ where DC comics are doing a sort of revamp of all their beloved characters. I was pretty late to catch onto that so if you’re a comic fan you probably already knew, but just in case. So after the joker came along in The Killing Joke by Alan Lee to paralyze Barbara Gordon, instead of sitting in her wheelchair and being the Oracle she has decided to get back on two feet and defend Gotham City with Batman.

I really loved Gail Simone’s take on the character, and that they brought her back out of the wheelchair and onto the streets of Gotham. I love Batman and his world, but it’s nice to see someone who can rock a bra defending the city too. That being said, this is still Gotham City and Batman makes an appearance, but it is Batgirl who hold the limelight. Simone gives the character an attitude and a personal identity that makes her an individual despite all her associations, which is really exciting. One of the things I heard getting criticized a lot was the villains of the story, but they worked really well alongside the characters psyche and helped her develop herself for this new storyline that I hope to continue in 2014. Also, have to mention the art work, Alan Hughes bold lines and colours bursting out of the dark streets of Gotham made the work stand out. One point that did confuse me a little bit was a scene in the bat-cave where there was a t-Rex in the background… don’t quite know what to make of that, but hey ho illustrator’s choice.

4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This is known as the grand-daddy of the true crime genre. It tells the story of a brutal murder that happened in Kansas in 1959. Truman Capote went over to follow the murder and wrote his literary account of the events that took place after that murder.

It was written in sections that split up the crime from the investigation and then after the investigation how events came to a close. I’ve got such a thing for Capote’s writing so this could be biased, but everything is just so wonderfully described. I read a lot of true crime and I find it fascinating, but it isn’t really for everyone. What makes this book stand out as the one book that made true crime is the detail and the sort of unexpected connection you get to the killers. Capote writes this novel completely unbiased, and you do want the killers to be caught and justice for the Clutter family. On the other hand, you’re so interested in the murderers and what they’re doing, then when it all comes to a head you feel so compassionate. What’s interesting as well in this is that the death sentence is an element of the story and as a citizen of the UK it is interesting to try and understand the death sentence in the US. This book completely changed the way I think and it’ll stay with me for a long time, but I am fascinated by morbid details where as others are just not.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I really didn’t think I was going to like this one, maybe didn’t even want to so the fact that I really did probably made me like it even more? My enjoyment took me by surprise. In the story Hazel is a teenager suffering from cancer, but really she just wants to live her life. Then there is Augustus who she meets at a support group and he’s in remission, but they form a great bond.

I’m not a massive fan of young adult and I’m definitely not a fan of the romances in young adult. It isn’t that I feel I’m too old for it and it’s “immature”, I love reading children books, but I kind of hate teenagers, or I hate reading someone pretending to be a teenager by whining. For example, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Hermione is annoying, Ron is annoying and Harry is definitely annoying because all they do is moan about how all the hormones that have just hit them, but onto this review now. I basically set myself up to hate this because I was expecting to just read a lot of whining for however many pages, but John Green makes the teenage voice less irritating. There are elements of “god my parents don’t get me”, but the kids in this are dealing with some hard stuff and it is understandable and there is also a respect for their parents. This sounds like a depressing read, and it isn’t happy-go-lucky, but there is a really light-hearted tone to the story as well.

So after writing those reviews I shall resolve to read some less depressing/disturbing stuff – I just can’t help myself. I also read a few other good reads in 2013, but I felt like I was saying similar things about each of them and I didn’t wanna go on and on.

This year I want to do the same 75 reads, however in honour of the 100 year anniversary of World War I (as well as my lack of history knowledge) I will aim to read a novel each month that is in some way connected to the war. This month I am reading 1913: The Year Before the StormĀ by Florian Illies (should have read it last year, not 100% sure if that counts, but if there is time I’ll throw in Birdsong by Sebastien Faulks). I will also aim to do a review of those books on here.

I hope your resolutions are going strong, although I’m not getting bowled off the path by joggers as much as I am in the average January. It still counts if you start in March when it warms up.

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§ 4 Responses to BOOK REVIEWS AND RESOLUTIONS | 2013 in Books

  • punnort says:

    Do androids dream of electric sheep is one of my favourite books. Well, we all know that empathy and caring for others is a good thing, but what happens when they become a social norm? The book shows that the results are not good. There’s no point in forced empathy.

    • rbell28 says:

      That’s why Isidore was my favourite he was the only character who didn’t use empathy as social status (the spider part won me over). I really wanna try more sci-fi now but don’t know where to start, there’s too much out there, any suggestions?

      • punnort says:

        It would be easier for me to recommend sci-fi that concerns the limits of human knowledge (I’d recommend Solaris by Stanislaw Lem or Diaspora by Greg Egan) or the fate of the universe (I’d recommend Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon), but if I try to stick with scifi that concerns with societal issues, I recommend Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. The former shows what it is like to crave for depth in a superficial society and the latter a clash between religious and humanist ideologies.

      • rbell28 says:

        Ah I’ve wanted to read Brave New World for ages and keep putting it off. I might pick that one up sooner now! Thank you :)

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